NEW YORK (ABP) — National Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA marked the 178th anniversary of its founding April 27 by announcing the agency will reclaim its historic name of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
"Outside of American Baptist circles and often within it as well, we spend a lot of time explaining what National Ministries is," Executive Director Aidsand Wright-Riggins said in a ceremony at Mariners' Temple Baptist Church in New York City. "American Baptist Home Mission Societies is much more straightforward and self-explanatory."
Mariners' Temple, the oldest Baptist church in Manhattan, was site of the sixth triennial Convention of the General Missionary Convention of the United States of America for Foreign Mission. A number of Baptists attending the meeting recessed to the nearby Mulberry Street Baptist Church to found the American Baptist Home Mission Society on April 27, 1832.
The name National Ministries was adopted after the organization joined in 1955 with the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, which was founded in 1887. Later it merged with the Baptist General Tract Society, founded in 1824, and the American Baptist Education Society, founded in 1888. Clifford Johnson, president of the National Ministries board said using the plural American Baptist Home Mission Societies honors the "various threads of our history."
According to a press release, the National Ministries website is being retooled in conjunction with the name change. A redesigned home page is scheduled to launch by April 29 at www.abhms.org. It will include a new weekly podcast feature, "Home Mission in Action," which launches with an interview with Wright-Riggins about National Ministries reclaiming its historic names.
"Our birth names state clearly who we are and what we are called to do in this second decade of the 21st century," Wright-Riggins said. "We are American Baptists, networked and focused on doing and enabling mission here in the United States of America and Puerto Rico."
Graphic files of a new logo and a bulletin insert to announce the reclaimed name to congregations will be made available on the website.
A daylong worship service at Mariners' Temple included a dramatization by Al Staggs, a performing artist from Albuquerque, who portrayed John Mason Peck, a founder of the American Baptist Home Mission Society and pioneer missionary who traveled to the western frontier, primarily Missouri and Illinois, preaching, teaching and establishing churches until his death in 1858.
Another dramatization by Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, profiled Joanna P. Moore, an American Baptist missionary who spent most of her life ministering to newly freed slaves in the South following the Civil War.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.